Between a rock and a hard place

What will the Fed do?

European stocks are making decent gains on Thursday, while US futures look a little flat ahead of the open on Wall Street.

US equities rallied as the session wore on yesterday and we’re seeing Europe playing a little catchup this morning. Overall, the mood remains a little downbeat in the markets, with investors torn between the “buy the dip” approach that has fared so well in the past and the growing list of economic and market risks that are increasingly evident.

We may see more of this over the coming months as countries get to grips with winter Covid surges, higher energy prices and higher inflation, among other things. Which makes the positions of central banks all the more uncomfortable, with many seemingly determined to persevere with paring back their pandemic stimulus measures.

Of course, if they are becoming more of the view that inflation is not as transitory as they previously believed, then they’re caught between a rock and a hard place and may be forced to act. But that will only pile on the pressure and disrupt the economic recoveries that many have enjoyed.

Next week we should learn a lot more about what the world’s most important central bank thinks of recent developments and how it perceives the risks posed by inflation. It may not be surprising therefore if equities err on the side of caution between now and then as an undesirable response could trigger a nasty reaction in the markets.

US data delivers gains for stocks, yields and USD as gold tumbles

Today’s data from the US has done little to clear things up, with both retail sales and the Philly Fed manufacturing index smashing expectations while jobless claims popped a little but only just exceeded forecasts. Retail sales have been volatile for a number of months but an August increase of 0.7% was the reverse of the decline that was expected.

Philly Fed has been trending lower since March and that trend was expected to continue but a surprise jump may be cause for optimism. While new orders and employment indicators softened, firms remain optimistic about the next 6 months as current general activity and shipments saw large increases.

US futures got a small lift on the back of the data while the dollar continued to rally as US yields drifted higher once more. Gold, which has been through a rough patch over the last 48 hours, didn’t fare well with the data and continued to trend lower on the day.

Bitcoin struggling at $48,000 once again

Bitcoin has steadied once more around $48,000 which remains an interesting technical level. A rotation off here back towards $44,000 could see correction pressure grow. I say this having talked about the prospect of a correction for weeks now and yet, bitcoin has shown remarkable resilience.

It obviously hasn’t burst higher in that time either but it’s certainly dragging its feet. With that in mind, there isn’t much to add at this point. A significant break below $44,000 could make things interesting, while a move above $48,000 will put the focus back on $50,000 and may even trigger a shift in momentum that has been absent in previous rallies.

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Craig Erlam

Craig Erlam

Former Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA at OANDA
Based in London, Craig Erlam joined OANDA in 2015 as a market analyst. With many years of experience as a financial market analyst and trader, he focuses on both fundamental and technical analysis while producing macroeconomic commentary. His views have been published in the Financial Times, Reuters, The Telegraph and the International Business Times, and he also appears as a regular guest commentator on the BBC, Bloomberg TV, FOX Business and SKY News. Craig holds a full membership to the Society of Technical Analysts and is recognised as a Certified Financial Technician by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.